ANN ARBOR -- To the 500 students attending the "Michigan Moving Forward" rally at the University of Michigan's Rackham Auditorium, Representative John D. Dingell put the question directly. "Republicans talk about taking the country back and I want to ask, back to what? Bush? Hoover? 1900? Louis XIII?"
With the audience cheering loudly Dingell answered, "This country is going to keep moving forward whether the Republicans like it or not."
The main purpose of the Wednesday night rally, featuring former Vermont Governor Howard Dean, was to highlight the critical importance of re-electing Michigan's two first term Democrats, 9th District Congressman Gary Peters and 7th District Congressman Mark Schauer.
Peters, the first Democrat to represent Oakland County since the 1800's, said "Republicans are coming at me with long knives, but they are not going to get the seat back."
Those "long knives" are being carried by the Tea Party and Peters' opponent in the race, Republican Andrew Raczkowski. Raczkowski has questioned the President's birth certificate and has the support of right-wing extremist Phyllis Schlafly.
Peters reminded people that at a July Raczkowski fundraiser Schlafly said, "Unmarried women supported President Obama because when you kick your husband out, you've got to have big brother government to be your provider."
Raczkowski is no friend of the environment. Peters noted that as a State Senator, Raczkowski had voted to allow oil drilling in the Great Lakes. With a recent oil pipeline leak taking place near Lake Michigan still fresh in people's minds, the difference between the two candidates is stark.
As applause rang out, Peters listed some of the accomplishments of both the Obama administration and his own efforts including Wall Street reform, saving General Motors and Chrysler, health care reform and the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.
Schauer is pitted against the far-right former incumbent of the district, Tim Walberg. To hisses, boos, and looks of disbelief, Schauer said the former congressman was the only member of the Educational Committee to vote against Head Start. He also voted against Pell grants.
Walberg wants to do away with Social Security and has said, "It's not worth the paper it's printed on." Those scare tactics were not going anywhere with this young crowd.
"Our forefathers felt we have an obligation to one another," Schauer continued. "The Republican Party believes it's every person for themselves. Elections matter. I'm asking you to fight for it."
Referring to the election of a young African American to the presidency, Dean called President Obama "the president of your generation." Dean noted that for the first time, "more people under 35 voted than were over 65."
Dean said the hostility fomented by the Republican Party towards minorities, gays, Muslims, and civil rights in general doesn't sit well with this generation.
Referring to the 2008 election he said, "You caused a revolution two years ago; you are in danger of losing everything. This is not a campaign, this is a movement."
The urgency of Dean's message was heard. Those attending signed pledge cards to vote and volunteer on the election campaigns.
After the rally Garrett Arwa, Michigan State Field Director of Organizing for America said, "We know these races are going to be close. Those students in the room, every single one that votes, every one that knocks on the door, gets their friends to vote, literally could make the difference."
When asked about the good response health care reform received each time it was mentioned, Arwa said the campus and its college Democrats had been very active in the health care reform fight. "The fact these kids can be covered by their parents until they're 26 is not lost on any of them and makes it resonate even more."
Photo: John Rummel